How to use school sport and PE funding to help young people who need it most

Emma Mackenzie-Hogg, Development Manager for primary education at the Youth Sport Trust, blogs about the importance of the Primary PE and Sport Premium in helping schools to ensure there is a universal access to sport, PE and play for every child in tough financial times.

The recent Good Childhood report from The Children’s Society has painted a stark picture of young people being priced out of sport through the current economic environment with 85% of parents and carers concerned about the impact of the cost-of-living increases on their family and 27% struggling with the cost of PE or sports kit over the last year. Nearly a third of UK parents said their child has missed out on a sporting opportunity over the past year because of the costs involved.

Young people from less affluent backgrounds, those with disabilities and young carers, are being hit hardest but are precisely those who may benefit the most from the power of play and sport. 

At the Youth Sport Trust, we are seeing financial pressures present in schools in the form of charging for participation in extra-curricular clubs requests for voluntary family contribution towards curriculum swimming and in reduced enrichment opportunities altogether.

With the continuation of the ring-fenced primary PE and school sport premium funding for the academic year 2022-23, how can schools align funding more intentionally towards those pupils most affected by this crisis? We must look to ensure that schools remain the hub of the community in relation to sport and play, continuing to provide a consistent, free and vital universal offer for all.

Targeted support

To set targeted, meaningful objectives in line with the PE premium key indicators, it is vital to first know the realities of the cost-of-living crisis on our families. Consider facilitating consultation with families, teachers and parents through surveys, focus groups and engagement with friends of/PTA groups. Key topics it would be helpful to cover may include:

  • Are families struggling to purchase equipment or kit for school or wider community participation?
  • Have families had to cancel memberships and weekly clubs because of cost linked to the club or travel to get there?
  • Are family activities being reduced? In particular
  • Are vital skills such as learning to swim and cycle being impacted?
  • Which families is this hitting hardest? How are these pupils feeling?

Relevance of the key indicators

Once the insight has been gathered, meaningful support for pupils can be set, with clear objectives linked to the relevant key indicators. The implementation may require funding or could be simple changes in approach which require very little investment. Here are some suggestions:

Key Indicator 1- Engagement of all pupils in regular physical activity

Example of an impactful objective: Provide targeted support to pupils and families whose physical activity levels have been impacted significantly by the cost-of-living crisis

Implementation Tips

  • Create a directory of ‘free to access’ local venues and opportunities that ensure families are still able to be active e.g. junior parkrun, active family groups, parks and green spaces, local events. Local school sport partnerships and local authorities can offer valuable guidance and insight.
  • During lockdown many schools created ‘home packs’ with activity cards and basic equipment. Could these be re-purposed or investment made into new packs for priority pupils to take home.
  • Identify the sports and activities which children are struggling to access and consider reviewing extra-curricular opportunities to include these activities. Possibly engage the local club and coaches to run sessions in school.
  • With many families reducing their car usage to save on petrol, why not consider how the school site could be used to host community club events, getting the pupils involved in playing, volunteering and officiating.

Key indicator 3- Increased confidence, knowledge and skills of all staff in teaching PE and sport

Example of an impactful objective: Utilise staff and school community across the school day to provide play, sport and physical activity opportunities

Implementation Tips

  • How does physical activity currently feature within wrap around care offered by the school?
  • Could breakfast and afterschool club staff be trained to support more play based and sports activities as part of the longer school day for many pupils e.g. OPAL training, NGB qualifications
  • Consider the skill set and expertise of parent, carers, governors who may be interested to support with school enrichment and invest in their training and qualifications.

Key Indicator 4: Broader experience of a range of sports and physical activities offered to all pupils

Example of an impactful objective: Review and refresh the PE curriculum to ensure a modern offer that meets the needs of all pupils and particularly those that need it most

Implementation Tips

  • PE may be the only opportunity for many pupils to access sport and physical activity, to develop the key physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills which contribute to the physical literacy journey. In identifying the gaps in pupils’ wider engagement with and experience of sport and physical activity, consider how the curriculum can be designed to include a focus on these movements and skills.
  • Bring in expertise from community clubs, NGBs and sports charities such as Chance to Shine across new and varied areas of the curriculum, facilitating team teaching and collaborative teaching and learning.
  • Align staff training (key indicator 3) to support competent and confident teaching of these new areas, contexts, environments

Solutions to support access to swimming

With a new study by the Swimming Teachers Association (STA) showing that one third of children do not know how to swim, schools may look to consider:

  • The PE premium can be used to provide ‘top up’ swimming for those pupils who do not meet the national curriculum requirements. Consider building a progressive pathway of ‘top up’ opportunities across upper key stage 2.
  • Swim England offer the Swim National Curriculum Training Programme (NCTP) for teachers, teaching assistants, parents/carers equipping them with the skills and knowledge to plan, deliver and evaluate school swimming lessons as part of the wider swim programme.
  • The Swim England School swimming and water safety charter provides schools and swimming lesson providers with free digital resources. These will support the delivery of an effective, engaging, progressive and fun swimming lesson programme in the pool, while also providing digital support to be used as a cross curricular approach to water safety.

For more information on swimming support available to schools click here.

Sport and physical activity shouldn’t be a nice to have, but a necessity for all young people. The value of young people’s engagement with and experiences of play and sport in physical and health literacy cannot be underestimated. We must all continue to be Changemakers for sport and play so that children grow up healthier, happier and more resilient. Unhappy, unhealthy children do not learn and if children don’t learn, we won’t have a society fit for purpose.

Published on 6 October 2022